When the past meets the present, this is the gift

Last Tuesday night I was chatting with my groovy friend Christopher about my musical roots and, most specifically, my Dad’s musical influence on me.

He asked if I could sing one of the Yiddish songs from my childhood.  And they were all lost.

All of the music that Dad performed was like an ethereal smoke.

I could sense it.  I could taste its essence.  I couldn’t grasp it in my brain.  I could barely string together two phrases from songs that were so deeply ingrained by my Dad.

I missed the connection between deep, dormant roots.  I felt disconnected from my core familial and musical history.

The next day I tried to phonetically find some of the Yiddish songs to no avail… and only after a deep dive into Spotify, did I find one of the songs: “Sheyn Vi Di Levone“.  This version was produced with a bombastic, heavy metal flair.  I sent it to my brother, Jonathan.  He said it was just like Grandma used to sing…HA!


It was the perfect moment to ask…


You see, in the mid to late 90’s my Dad recorded 16 songs at home on a small rectangular tape recorder.  All live.  All one take. Dad playing piano and singing in his living room in Sunrise, FL.  He recorded all of these songs for me.

When Dad passed away in 2003,  my brother Jonathan (who also happens to be an extremely talented audio engineer and multi-instrumentalist) made a digital copy of the tape.  If memory serves, Jonathan wanted to keep the original and I wouldn’t let him.

Jonathan is very clearly the more responsible of the two of us.  He would still have that original in his hand.  I somehow lost it.

Anyway, he didn’t respond when I asked about the digital copy.

I figured I would find a way to ask again later.


Fast forward to today…


While I was at work I  got an email from Jonathan through a transfer site.   My birthday is in a few days so I thought that my darling brother had sent me a gift card or somesuch- he’s a REALLY good brother.

When I scrolled through and saw what was actually gifted in this email, I lost my breath.  I doubled over.  I couldn’t speak… and I was in the middle of a wickedly busy day at the restaurant.

Staff members thought something was terribly wrong.  It took me a few minutes to compose myself.  And a bit longer before I could string together words to describe what had caused this extreme reaction of breathlessness, tears, and joy.

I was about to hear my Dad’s voice for the first time in nearly 15 years.

The moment I got out of work and into my car, I downloaded the files.

The instant I heard his voice I could hear (and feel) exactly what Mark had heard decades before.

Pure, unadulterated, boundless love.

The kind of love that transcends space and time.


We often take for granted these seemingly small gifts.

I am so lucky to be loved by both of these men in my family.

These juicy teardrops that continue to stream down my cheeks brim with joy and gratitude.

Hold those who truly love and get you close, my friends. Tomorrow isn’t promised.

I can not wait to share this music with my daughters.  

Corpse Flower

This has been a time of much production. My hibernation has transformed into a far reaching creative awakening.

After the Quindaro Symposium, I had a few delicious beverages with my dear friend Carmen Moreno of West Bottoms Reborn. We were going to continue merrymaking at an open studio, but wound up settling in with hot tea and great conversation on my couch. We were productive… and I’m not being facetious. That night, we recorded my commentary track for Weaving the River and ideas for future projects sprouted up from the fertile grounds of our minds…

One of them is this, Corpse Flower.  Tuscon currently has one in bloom.  A few days prior I saw the live feed come across social media and it had been simmering in my mind.  I have been fascinated by the inflorescence of the Titan Arum ever since it came onto my radar several years back.

Not familiar with the Corpse Flower? Well, here are some basics. It originates from Sumatra.  It is the largest flower on record – growing up to 10 feet from stem to tip of spadix. Under favorable circumstances. the plant flowers once every 7-10 years. When the bud does appear, it grows at an exceedingly rapid pace: 4-6 inches per day. So from bud to bloom, it is about two weeks of breakneck growth. Once bloomed, it is exotically beautiful. And is known for it’s awful odor. The odor attracts pollinators, so the circle of life can continue. And after all of this, the bloom only last for about 48 hours.

There is a lesson within this life cycle. One that resonates deeply with me. To wait for something for so long, to produce something so grand to only have it live for a blip of time.  This is the artists way… we prepare for performances and shows: weeks, months, years… the shows are over in a blink and we hope that somehow our creation echoes with our audience.  That we have touched another sentient being in a visceral, meaningful way.

After years of  beneath the surface “work”, I have budded forth with rapid growth. Part of my cycle was recording all of my old tunes as a means of getting my chops back. I have never released any of these tracks.  The bud has grown to bloom… now.

Are they perfect? Hell no. Do they capture a moment? Absolutely.

They are exotically beautiful.  And, well, they may have their own foulness.. but only to spawn and pollinate future growth.

I must honor where I have come from so I have a better sense of where I want to go and grow.

Weaving the River – Liner Notes

So there’s the story… and then there’s the story within the story.

I first encountered the epic story of Quindaro while conducting research for Redlined a companion comic book for Community Health Council of Wyandotte County’s HEAT report.  My collaborator and I had run into some dead ends and providence led me to the Old Quindaro Museum.  While the visit didn’t specifically wind up informing the comic,  it did change my life.

I had no idea that Quindaro was so rich with deep American History.  I didn’t know that Wyandot and Abolitionists formed the township and boldly ushered slaves to freedom.  The town echoed with inspiration for our troubled times.

With the PolyArtery Collective (Justin Border, Meghan Cochrane Rowswell and Jillian Youngbird) we have created an immersive installation to awaken interest in the incredible history to a new generation.

The piece that I created is more of a sonic, epic poem than music.  Woven within the piece are sounds that I collected, created, recorded and manipulated.  The river, feet walking through grass, birds, wind, hammers, saws, chains, voices. Some elements pure… some highly distorted, like the history of this place.  How can we dampen the distortion to get to the truth?

Listen carefully. What do you feel?

Close your eyes.  Imagine the journey of two displaced peoples and what they did to build a community.


Weaving the River

A Collage Auditif in 4 Parts

⭐In the Beginning (intro)

⭐The Land Was (almost) Always There

⭐Where We Met/Warp and Weft

⭐Our Future is In Our Past

Special Guests: Allen Chapel Choir

  Choir: Helen Collins, Deitra Hanson, Brandon Jackson, Kerry Tyson  

  Soloist: Micah Davis        

Excerpts from:

Wyandot Creation Story

Wade in the Water, Traditional

Hold On, Traditional

letter from Abelard Guthrie to Hiram Hill

Produced, recorded, additional vocals by Jen Appell

Mixed and Mastered by Brodie Rush

Copyright 2018

Special Thanks:

Rev. Stacy Evans, Allen Chapel AME Chapel, Mr. Luther Smith & Mr. America Patton, Vernon Multi Use Center Underground Railroad Museum, Anthony Hope, Old Quindaro Museum

Jan English, Holly Zane, Wyandot Nation. Liz Hobson.  Jerry Jones and Donna Young, Community Health Council of Wyandotte County. Anne Lacey, Kansas City Kansas Public Library.

Massive Gratitude to Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area (Julie McPike, Kelly Burns and the whole team!). Arts KC. Fractured Atlas.



Where We Met/Warp and Weft

In Autumn 2016, I participated in Artist Inc KC, a business bootcamp essentially for artists of all mediums.

It was a ballsy move for me to apply, really.  I had taken about a decade off after the birth of my beautiful twin daughters.  The autumn before the program was the first time that I had performed out since I was pregnant.  That performance on that night at Uptown Arts Bar was transformative.

Somehow, despite fierce competition to be included in Artist Inc., I was selected.  The fact that I was regarded by the committee as a good candidate was validating and empowering.

We met weekly and discussed big picture items like marketing, budgeting/finance and goals in a large group, about 30 creatives and then break down into our small groups.  It was pretty easy to see from the very beginning that there was a little bit of magic in my small group.

Justin BorderMeghan Cochrane RowswellJillian Youngbird.

We were all very different but there was an easy connective energy between us.  Over the weeks our friendship grew.  We discussed the possibility of working on a collaboration.

We met on our own time to review each other’s final presentations.  It was there that our project, Weaving the River, began to take shape.

Tonight, on the eve of it’s premiere at the Quindaro Symposium, I am overwhelmed and nervous.  So much heart and love has been poured into the landscapes, the woven river and the soundscape (that I have decided is really more of a collage auditif).  We have a deep love for each other and for the community that we support with this project.  We are honored to be welcomed into the community and trusted with this epic history.

Limited space is still available.  Register in person.  Details available here.


Rooted and Emerging

Plants growing from soil-Plant progress isolated


I have sat in virtual, social media silence for nearly six months. My voice would occasionally rise but only to a whisper, never persistently.

Last year was tremendously expansive… and challenging.

So many changes…. so many opportunities seized.

With simplicity, I received everything that came my way.  Yet still, the abundance was too much.  I was running on fumes.  I got physically ill and still met my commitments.  But didn’t take anything else on.  I needed to recoil and regroup.  Redirect and re-evaluate.  A long dormant winter, but beneath the surface heavy duty work was happening.

I believe in the power of slow creative gestation.

Of course sometimes, when the stars align just so, a song or a project takes shape in what seems like an instant… but the truth is that the foundation has to be strong for that to truly happen.

And now, here I am with a nearly completed soundscape for Weaving the River… which will be premiered later this month at Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area’s Quindaro Symposium.

I am so honored to be able to tell this incredible story in a way that I have never explored before.  I have collected sounds and clips and woven them together to engage the listener in the beautiful story of an often misrepresented neighborhood.

Never trust exactly what you see, for beneath the surface magic is afoot.


Monday, August 21, 2017


I’m struggling.  I’ve been struggling.  I continue to struggle.

So many massive feelings are still percolating from the eclipse.

I’m a cosmic girl.  Always have been.  The stars have always called to me.  As a child I wondered why the moon was following me.

A few years back, a whip smart philosophical friend and I delved deeply into conversation about Hermeticism.  Conceptually I had already embraced the theory.  And, in college days’ daze, I had read up on the subject… however, in these conversations with my friend, the long germinating seeds took firm root.  Patterns on patterns on patterns. As above, so below.  The celestial patterns in the greater universe play out on this earth in nature, in inter-human dynamics and in the microcosm of self.

And so, back to the the eclipse.  It moved me deeply, like to involuntary tears deeply.

Partially because of it’s remarkable beauty.  Partially because of scientific and mathematical awe at the accuracy of brilliant minds who can calculate the event within microseconds.  Partially because it reminds me of how small I am in this expanding infinite universe.

Partially because I wonder what I have allowed to drift in front of me: what/who I have aligned with… that has blocked me and/or made me radiate in ways I never imagined.

It’s all valid… and together these pieces equal my personal totality.

Sacred geometry living in me, around me…. through me.

Spiraling and twining infinitely.

Never Surrender

The events of this last week have left me spinning. I have been partially paralyzed by the happenings in my microcosm, but the macrocosm requires attention.

Over the summer I fed my daughters a steady diet of information about the Holocaust. Somewhere in my subconscious I knew that I needed to prepare them.  They need to know how sick our world is.  They need to know that one by one, drop by drop we can heal it.  That each of us can make a small contribution.  That we can stand up for what we believe.  That each of us makes a difference.  That it is imperative that we act boldly.  That we MUST raise our voices.  That only knowledge can banish ignorance.

The work that I create is fueled by social justice and awareness.

Arc of Joan deals with resistance and identity issues as well as mental health. I mean seriously, how many people who truly listen to their inner voices (whether originating divinely, naturally or, dare I say, both?) are considered insane or unstable? Those who don’t follow the flock, those who forge their own paths are often initially disregarded and vilified. Those who boldly go into the unknown know what is on the other side of fear… everything.

Both Weaving the River and Redlined are informed by government issued and PERPETUATED racism.  Racism that affects neighborhoods.  Racism that affects health.  Racism that affects the very fabric of our society.

We must use the tools that we have to make the change that we want to see in this world.We must stand up.  We must be heard.

Silence = Death

(originally written 8.18.17)

It’s not the destination…

We all have choices in life.

We can fight for what we know to be inherently true or we can easily slide into a stupor of acceptance.  Sometimes we are driven to accept what others believe to be the best for us.  But nobody knows your truth like YOU know your truth.

For years I emotionally, physically and mentally wasted away.  I drank the kool-aid.  I did what others thought I should do.  Partially from fatigue.  Partially because I was spoon fed that it was the right thing to do.   But deep down inside I knew that I was living a lie.  I knew that the lifestyle that I had chosen wasn’t really who I was.  I tried to squeeze into the false idol of the American dream.  I nestled in the false safety net of “things”.  I swallowed another corporate coffee so I could continue to drown out the weakening lilt of my inner voice.

My inner creator manifested in small ways like crafty gifts for teachers or an occasionally knit scarf.

That may have been enough.  That may have sufficed.  But the creative furnace in the core of this sentient carbon based life form burns with an energy that can not be quelled by rote creative activities.  This energy pushes out from it’s source and myriad manifestations.

Sit back and watch out for what comes next…

(originally written 8.1.17)

Out of the frying pan…


Someone, who I love, told me that I have taken on too much. That my fuse is too short because I am stretched too thin.

Here’s where I am.

Last weekend, I opened “Arc of Joan” at KC Fringe 2017. It has not gone exactly as planned, but what really does… Adaptability has become one of my strong suits, in my view. I am rolling with whatever creeps up and handling all of the hiccups with as much grace as I can muster.

In some ways, I feel like there are forces out there willing my failure. I resist and persist against these forces by merely “being” and continually moving forward.

True failure is in NOT trying, in NOT putting oneself out there, in NOT raising your voice louder when someone tries to silence you.

The simple act of exposing your creativity to the world is an act of bravery. The criticism, whether it be negative or positive, is a side effect.

And at the root of it all, I am human. I deeply feel the negative and the positive responses. It seems like the “bad stuff” is louder and resonates more deeply than the good. I will not the allow myself to drown in the sea of negativity. But I hold on to each positive utterance like a life raft, I breathe them in like oxygen.

I will continue to boldly move forward and silence the external noise. I know my truth.

I know that I’m not meant to be everyone’s “cup of tea”… especially ’cause I am a straight shot of whiskey.

I honor those before me who did not try, who did not put themselves out there, who allowed themselves to be silenced, simply by not doing the same.

The half lived lives of those who walked before me, inspire me to live my life to the fullest. I want this not just for me, but for the benefit of my children. They should know that their potential is boundless.

Now. Breathe, repeat. Keep moving forward.

All my love,

Fever Pitch

Slowly, it approaches.  The intensity builds and builds until you find yourself here… in it.

And when you arrive “in it”, “it” never is quite what you expected it to be.

Adapt or die has been my battle cry.  A rug gets pulled out from beneath your feet?  Figure out how to land… somewhere else.

There have been more than a handful of occasions lately where a former version of myself would have shrunk back, gone into my cave to lick my wounds and reappear sometime in the undetermined future a little less shiny, a little weaker than before.

Shrinking back is no longer an option.  This is a time to expand.  This is a time to push the limits, get in a little too deep.  This is a time to ADAPT.

These emotional battle scars all serve a purpose.  They embolden me by their presence.  They  remind me that I endured, I survived.  I am able to grow and flourish from the marks left behind.  They remind me that the past is a root to grow from.  That the present fertilizes these roots.  That the future is completely connected to the equation that I derive from these two elements.  And what do I choose to do? Flounder or flourish.  There really is only one option.

I am so completely blessed to be OVERWHELMED by all of the amazing projects that are coming down the pike.  First off is Arc of Joan at KC Fringe… it is getting so close.  I’m in one of those maddening spaces where decision upon decision relies solely on me and I’m questioning myself.  But I’m also in the space where I’m starting to let go and allow this performance to manifest in whatever way it does based on the beautiful and talented people who have given of themselves so graciously and gracefully.  I honestly wouldn’t have made it this far without Athena Horton, Dexter Melton and my sister on the stage,  Kaelyn Alese Whitt.   These amazing humans have been the voices of strength, clarity and ingenuity.  I am eternally grateful for their generous spirits and loving contributions.

The strength of this little community makes me braver, makes me bolder.

Stay tuned  for more information/transformation.

Embrace the chaos.  This is one helluva ride.